Kenneth Branagh and Lily Cole join the cast of Ben Elton’s Shakespeare comedy Upstart Crow

The pair will feature in this year’s Christmas special will which will follow a third series this year

TOKYO, JAPAN - DECEMBER 05:  Actor Kenneth Branagh attrends the premier event for 'Murder on the Orient Express' at Roppongi Hills on December 5, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan.  (Photo by Jun Sato/WireImage)

Kenneth Branagh and Lily Cole have signed up to appear in this year’s Upstart Crow Christmas special.

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The pair will follow in the footsteps of Emma Thompson, who played Elizabeth I in the recent Yuletide edition of Ben Elton’s comedy about William Shakespeare. Branagh will play a mysterious stranger, while model and St Trinian’s actress Cole will play a new character called Ephie in the episode.

A third series of the BBC2 show is also in the works for transmission before then. It will feature a range of new guest stars including Adrian Edmondson (Bottom), Montserat Lombard (Inside No. 9) and Ben Miller (Armstrong and Miller). They join regulars David Mitchell (who plays Will), Harry Enfield as Will’s flatulent and boorish father John, and Liza Tarbuck who will return as the Bard’s loving wife Anne.

Other regulars who will be returning are Game of Thrones star Gemma Whelan as the vivacious servant Kate, Helen Monks as Will’s stroppy daughter Susanna and Paula Wilcox as Will’s mother.

As is customary, the new series will draw inspiration from Shakespeare’s plays, with Julius Caesar and A Midsummer Night’s Dream forming the backdrop to series three.

Elton said: “With incredible names like Ben Miller, Lily Cole and Kenneth Branagh all making guest appearances, the third series of Upstart Crow really is going to be a truly star-crossed show.”

BBC Studios Head of Comedy Chris Sussman added: “It’s a great testament to Ben’s writing that we’ve managed to get such a talented bunch joining the cast for our third series.”

Upstart Crow publicity shot, BD
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Upstart Crow series 3 and the Christmas Special will air on BBC2 this year